It’s Time For Our Luck To Change! – 18/3/16

Mark Warburton was always one to say that matches in the Championship were invariably closely fought, tightly contested and generally turned on a mistake, a moment of genius or the whim of a referee’s decision.

In other words the result hinged on a hairsbreadth and narrow margins prevailed.

Who can recall the home game against Norwich last season which to a disinterested observer appeared to end in a conclusive and comprehensive three goal victory for the visitors?

Brentford fans knew far better, as a contest totally dominated by the Bees was decided by a series of outstanding saves by the unbeatable John Ruddy, a momentary loss of concentration by James Tarkowski which led to the crucial opening goal and the referee’s incomprehensible decision not to award a seemingly stonewall penalty when Alex Pritchard was clearly sawn off at the knees a few moments later.

Brentford go into tomorrow’s match after a run of three demoralising defeats to Rotherham, Charlton and, most upsettingly, local rivals Queens Park Rangers.

On the face of it, losing to three teams who can hardly be described as Championship powerhouses is worrying and does not bode well for the immediate future.

Confidence both on the pitch and the terraces is quite naturally at a low ebb at tthe moment and the season is now poised on a knife edge.

Will the team belatedly recover its poise and with one bound be free of the looming threat of a relegation dog fight or will we all be in for an exhausting, stressful and nerve shattering last ten games of the season?

A closer examination of the key moments in each of the last three games should provide some crumbs of comfort for supporters whose nails are bitten to the quick, whose nerves are clanging and who are quick now to remonstrate and express disapproval when things go wrong on and off the pitch.

John Swift and Philipp Hofmann both missed glaring chances to equalise late on at Rotherham when scoring seemed by far the easiest option.

Who knows how the home team would have responded to such a mortal blow so soon after they had gone ahead in the match for the second time?

Maybe heads would have gone down and a revitalised and re-energised Brentford team would have gone onto an unlikely victory?

Having recovered from conceding a daft goal within the opening twenty seconds Brentford were dominating proceedings against Charlton and having deservedly equalised were pressing hard for the go ahead goal.

The opportunity came early in the second half when Josh McEachran saw a gap in the leaden footed Charlton defence and his perfectly weighted pass sent Sergi Canos streaking through on goal but unfortunately he pulled his effort narrowly wide and the chance had gone.

A goal then, and the Bees would probably have scored at least once more afterwards and gained a morale boosting victory.

Even at Loftus Road last weekend there was a massive turning point almost immediately after QPR had taken the lead when Ryan Woods pinged a twenty-five yard effort off the post and it bounced out instead of in. An equaliser right before the break would surely have deflated the home team and then, who knows what might have happened?

Narrow margins indeed and maybe it is finally time for the fickle finger of fate to point in our direction and for the ball to start running in our favour after so long a period when we have been totally starved of good fortune?

There has already been some very good news this week which hopefully we can build upon with the long overdue signing of a new loan striker in Uruguayan forward Leandro Rodríguez from Everton.

He is largely untried in this country but comes with a good reputation and a decent goal scoring record for River Plate and at twenty-three he is hopefully mature enough to take this opportunity in his stride and if he is as successful as our previous loanees from Everton we will have nothing to complain about.

Scott Hogan also came through another Development Squad outing on Monday and clearly demonstrated his disappointment when taken off near the end. Perhaps a good sign and maybe he will be considered fit enough to take his place on the bench tomorrow?

Given the lack of bite and incision this year from any of our three strikers and their overall impotence, the arrival of Rodríguez and the possible presence of Hogan will give us a huge boost as we face a massive and tough tackling Blackburn defence which takes no prisoners, as Marco Djuricin can surely attest given the serious injury he suffered after a horror-show challenge in the first meeting between the two teams.

Encouragingly, Max Colin is also back in training and contention for selection and will hopefully come through the match without breaking down as his steadiness and attacking forays have been sorely missed and his return will provide us with an additional potent weapon in our armoury.

Alan Judge will certainly return to his best position behind the striker after last week’s failed experiment at Loftus Road and he will want to impress against his former team as well as try to catch the eye of the Eire team management, given that he hopes to make his full international debut in the next couple of weeks.

News also broke yesterday of a players-only behind closed doors meeting which was held earlier this week when some home truths were undoubtedly spoken and individuals reminded of their respective responsibilities and how much is currently at stake.

A similar such inquest after the Stevenage debacle in 2013 had a massively beneficial effect as the Bees immediately went on a long and uninterrupted run of victories.

Would that there is an identical reaction starting tomorrow afternoon!

Our recent record against our visitors is excellent with two wins and a draw in our last three meetings.

We scored six times in our two encounters last season, marked by Jota’s magnificent solo effort at Ewood Park and given that our goals were scored by Jota twice, Gray twice, Douglas and Long someone else will need to step up to the plate tomorrow.

It doesn’t necessarily take much to change a seemingly never ending run of poor results and performances and tomorrow would certainly be a perfect time for the Gods to smile down upon us.

All we can do as fans is unite as one and provide loud and unconditional support throughout the entire game.

Beyond that matters are totally out of our hands, but let’s keep our fingers crossed!

Damned If You Do… – 28/11/15

The airwaves and social media channels alike have been red hot with activity and comment, most of it negative, exasperated, mocking and even vituperative in tone, in response to Brentford Co-Director of Football Phil Giles’s statement last night updating the supporters on the current state of play regarding the head coaching position at the club.

This is what he had to say:

In Lee’s last post-match press conference, he discussed the possibility that the Nottingham Forest game would be his last in charge. This was the expectation of both Rasmus Ankersen and myself. Lee’s comments were made in good faith based on the conversations we held last week.

Circumstances this week have meant that we haven’t been able to make the change as originally anticipated. We will continue with our process to find the right long term Head Coach for Brentford, rather than make a hasty appointment.

Lee has done a superb job since taking charge in September and we look forward to our game with Bolton on Monday evening.

This has been enough to rouse much of the fanbase to fury.

Now before everyone starts with the accusation that I am merely a mouthpiece, shill, or an apologist for the club I will make the point that the purpose of these articles is simply for me to spout off and give my opinion about anything and everything that is happening in and around Brentford FC both on and off the pitch.

I try to avoid unnecessary knee-jerk reactions and, unlike Keith Stroud and Brendan Malone, allow myself time to think before making a final decision. I try as hard as I can to avoid factual errors by taking soundings from friends and contacts in and around – and sometimes well outside – the club and I always endeavour to check my sources before rushing into print. I also take the laws of libel very seriously indeed.

Of course I am probably proved wrong as often – or even more so, than I am correct in my musings, but that is just the luck of the draw. I welcome, publish and respond to any and all feedback and comments to what I write and I am quite used and inured to readers telling me that I am deluded in what I have to say.

I have also not held back in heavily criticising the club over its actions whenever I feel that it is justified. Just to give a couple of examples: I felt that certain individuals were naive in the extreme not to anticipate that ongoing behind closed doors negotiations with potential replacements for Mark Warburton would not leak out into the media and cause the horrendous destabilisation that threatened to jeopardise our promotion push last February. I also felt strongly that the club’s initial crisis management was inept and poorly executed in the extreme.

The appointment of Marinus Dijkhuizen was also totally bungled and we do not know yet how much its impact will eventually influence the outcome of this season given that we have been forced onto the back foot ever since.

I have given a great deal of thought to the current managerial or head coaching hiatus and as far as I am concerned the club cannot and should not be criticised in any way, shape or form for how it has managed and continues to deal with a difficult and complex situation.

Here is my reading of affairs and how they have developed since the end of September and the sacking of Marinus. I fully expect however that much of what I set down is not totally accurate but it is as close to the truth that I can get:

  1. An interim Head Coach is needed at short notice and Lee Carsley is the obvious immediate candidate given his previous, albeit limited, managerial experience and the respect he has gained from the entire squad since his arrival last season
  2. Lee is persuaded to sign on for the rest of the season despite his misgivings, possible concerns about the necessary commitment owing to his family situation and preference to remain as a development coach but he is assuaged by the knowledge that the club will be looking for a permanent replacement from the outset
  3. After two initial defeats, Lee Carsley, aided by the invaluable Paul Williams and Flemming Pedersen is able to put his stamp on affairs and the seemingly terminal decline is arrested and reversed. Not only that, the dramatic improvement in results leads to Lee winning a fully deserved Manager of the Month Award for October
  4. Lee remains entirely consistent and honest in all his public statements reiterating his preference for youth coaching and that he feels that he is not ready for a job of this magnitude which requires a far more experienced pair of hands
  5. Efforts are being made behind the scenes to identify and verify potential candidates for the permanent role but Carsley’s success means that he has bought us sufficient time to ensure that a panic or rushed appointment does not have to be made and that the optimum candidate can be sourced and ideally hired
  6. Given his success I would expect that efforts were made to persuade Lee to change his mind and take on the role on a permanent basis. Maybe he even prevaricated and considered the option too, but the end result remains the same. He does not want to continue in his post any longer than is strictly necessary
  7. A short list is being considered and soundings taken and three names appear in the media: Pep Clotet, Dean Smith and Justin Edinburgh
  8. There is no smoke without fire and it soon becomes evident that Clotet is the preferred candidate. He has limited managerial experience but is an acclaimed coach with an excellent track record, particularly for a man of his relative youth, and Swansea, where he is currently employed, would appear to be a benchmark and exemplar for how Matthew Benham wants his club to set up and play in terms of the quality and style of its football
  9. The situation at Swansea, however is complex, confused and ever changing. Will the manager stay, will he be sacked? Is he being pressurised to make changes in his coaching staff? Will the status quo finally prevail? Is the Chairman willing to allow Clotet to leave or does he want him to stay? Is he looking to extract compensation for him? To a large degree these questions remain unanswered and I am certain that there have been shifting sands over the past couple of weeks
  10. Assuming that Clotet is the man and that he has passed our due diligence (it is of course entirely possible that we have changed our mind too), then it must be a difficult, longwinded and frustrating challenge to firstly persuade him to leave the Premier League and take up the job at Griffin Park and then extract him from his current situation
  11. It would appear that last weekend Brentford believed that this interminable process was near to completion and that we were on the verge of announcing an appointment
  12. Lee Carsley was obviously kept fully updated on the progress of all negotiations and therefore quite reasonably made it clear in his post match interview that he fully expected that the Nottingham Forest match would be his last match in charge
  13. Unfortunately the goalposts changed and what we thought was almost a done deal is no longer the case. Has the change of heart come from Clotet? Has his club decided to hang onto him? Are agents muddying the water? Does his family prefer to stay put rather than move to London? Can we keep compensation and salary costs down to a manageable level and remain within our budgetary constraints? I cannot provide any firm answers to these or any other relevant questions
  14. The bottom line is that what we thought and honestly believed would happen has not yet taken place. Maybe the Clotet deal is dead. Perhaps there will, even now, be a change of heart from whoever is holding things up and he will still be appointed. Highly doubtful, in my opinion
  15. More likely we are on to our next preferred candidate who apparently is the Walsall manager, Dean Smith, and hopefully we will have better luck with him
  16. Second choice does not mean second best. I fully expect that we have identified at least two excellent and ideal candidates for the job either of whom the club would be happy to appoint. For my part I would have liked Clotet for the reasons previously expressed and feel that Smith also has the experience at the coalface to do well and has a football philosophy in line with our own
  17. The only consideration is to get things right this time. We cannot afford another poor appointment if the club is to continue to progress as we fully intend. Thankfully we do not have to make an appointment simply for the sake of doing so and can within reason, take whatever time is necessary
  18. As long, of course, as Lee Carsley continues to play ball and is prepared to hold the fort until the new man is in place. I have no idea if he has set a deadline or if he is willing to remain in charge for an indefinite period as necessary. My gut feeling regarding Lee’s state of mind is that the sooner we are in a position to appoint a new Head Coach the better
  19. I would also add that we are only one of three attractive managerial/head coaching vacancies in West London and it does not appear that either Fulham or Queens Park Rangers are having any more success in getting a deal over the line than we are

I feel that the club has acted entirely responsibly in this entire process and does not deserve the flack that it is receiving from all quarters. Hiring a new manager or head coach is an extremely complex and crucial undertaking. There are so many variables that can change or go wrong. You are dealing with a plethora of individuals, from the candidates themselves, to their agents and representatives. You then have to negotiate with the club and cope with family interests as well. In other words there is a lot of juggling that needs to be done and so much is totally out of your own hands.

I am happy and content that Lee Carsley will remain in charge on Monday and know that he will be fully focused on the task ahead. I also know that the massive amount of work being conducted by the club behind the scenes and under the radar will continue until we are ready to announce the identity of our new Head Coach and I am fully confident that this time it will be the right choice.

What The Fans Think! – 1/10/15

This has certainly been a horrendously difficult and unsettling week for everyone involved with Brentford FC, players, management, staff and supporters alike. Head Coach Marinus Dijkhuizen and his assistant, Roy Hendriksen were both sacked on Monday and replaced until the end of the season by Lee Carsley, whose job as Development Squad Coach went to Bees stalwart and legend, Kevin O’Connor.

On the field, Saturday’s narrow and frankly undeserved home defeat by Sheffield Wednesday was followed by a dreadful performance on Tuesday when a totally listless, rudderless and dispirited Brentford team limped to a two-nil defeat by Birmingham City which was immediately followed by Lee Carsley’s naive and unexpected, if totally honest post-match admission that he had no real wish or desire to become a football manager and would therefore be likely to leave the club once his spell in charge was completed. Comments that understandably, have not been well received by Bees supporters.

I can’t speak for anybody else, but my head is certainly spinning and reeling trying to process and assimilate so much traumatic and negative activity in such a short period of time and I have already written at length about my own analysis and reading of the situation.

Over the last couple of days I have received many comments from readers of my material and here is a selection of what they have said and their views on the current situation:

Former player Richard Poole starts the ball rolling:

Well things certainly look gloomy with a newly appointed head coach who does not think he will be there next season and a team with no apparent motivation, something I find hard to understand.

When we were fighting against re-election in 1974 everyone wanted to do their best and the players who were pulling out of tackles or not giving their all were simply replaced by other pros or even by young players like me who were maybe not good enough but who ran theirs sock off for the club.

Yes I know football has changed a lot and yes this is not the Fourth Division we are talking about, but for God’s sake just give me a team of eleven players whatever their age who give their all for the club and I cannot believe that there are not a couple of players in the Development Squad who cannot step up to the plate and help the first team. They might not be quite up to the standard required  but I am sure they would give their total commitment.

As for the coaching side, maybe the owner will admit that things aren’t working quite as anticipated and put his new-fangled approach on ice and appoint a real manager for the time being.

Come on you Bees, at least show us that you’ve got guts and will give your all. Whatever the outcome we are behind you.

Rebel Bee was more outspoken:

I think we have to admit to a lack of quality and physicality too. The team on show on Tuesday was a League One outfit at best. We seem to have signed continental footballers who lack touch and technique – the two things that you would expect them to have whilst they adapt to the more physical side of the English game.

I’m so down on our club right now.

I actually feel very emotional about it. Five years of intelligent endeavour to build something special is being wrecked before our eyes – with both things initiated by the same person.

What Matthew Benham does next will determine his legacy and our future – I doubt he’ll read my words, but just in case, please Matthew come out and speak to us, and let’s try to get everyone back on board before it’s too late.

Mike Rice was also concerned:

Last night we were a League One quality side with three passengers: Vibe, Djuricin and Kerschbaumer. We were playing another League One side who were incredibly well organised and did all of the right things at the right time.

We are ill-equipped to fight a relegation battle, but we are in one. 
I excused Lee Carsley last night because he probably didn’t know he definitely had the gig until last Sunday. I was saying that the jury was out and maybe he was a wonder coach. He would be able to turn things around despite not having any track record at this level.

Now I learn that he expects to go at the end of the season, which sounds to me like he had his arm twisted to take the job. To say that is not encouraging is an understatement.
Perhaps the owner should get in touch with Ian Holloway or Neil Warnock to hold Lee’s hand?

And get in some Championship calibre players on loan as well to replace our foreign imports who will take too long to become acclimatised, as well as some of our League One standard players.

beesyellow22 was equally realistic:

Another excellent article and the reason why there’s no point in me writing a blog myself – after all, you say very eloquently what I think most of us are thinking!

Not much to add to the excellent comments above, except to agree with many of them. Key points for me:

1. Letting Warburton go or engineering a situation where he felt he had to go was a MASSIVE mistake by the club. As much as we owe him for getting us where we are today, the blame lies squarely at the owner’s door.

2. The mathematical model should have been put on hold for as long as Warbs was with us. For goodness’ sake, we finished FIFTH IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP last season! After years of languishing in lower league obscurity! Surely Benham should have parked his new approach, kept our best manager ever and held onto Warburton for another season at least?

3. Dijkhuizen was a nice guy, but to coin a phrase, “nice guys finish last” (or nineteenth as things currently stand). He was the WRONG APPOINTMENT and hopelessly out of his depth. I sit next to a Derby fan at work and we talk about the Championship all the time.

As he puts it, it is a RELENTLESS league! Not amazingly  high quality, but you need to be on your A game every single Tuesday and Saturday (with the occasional Friday and Monday thrown in for good measure).

Dijkhuizen simply did not have the experience, wherewithal, tactical nous or, I’m afraid, connection with the players to be successful. Yes, eight games (actually nine, counting the battering by Oxford) is not nearly long enough to prove yourself – but anyone who watched the Reading match or the first half versus Wednesday will know how awful we were, and I’m afraid that when it comes to preparation, team selection and tactics, the manager ultimately has to carry the can.

4. To coin another phrase, where Bournemouth went for evolution, we went for revolution. Too much, too soon. And one area where the club really failed was in anticipating just how many of our key players from last season would want to leave after Warburton departed.

Yes, Moses may well have left anyway, but I honestly believe tha had Warburton remained, the likes of Dallas and Gray would have felt more inclined to stay too (and obviously Douglas would not have been forced out the door).

5. The question has already been posed, but why on earth has Ryan Woods been stuck on the bench? Yes, he made a mistake against Leeds, but when he came on against Wednesday he looked absolutely sensational – but he was only given FIVE MINUTES!!! To me, he is the future and we should be building a team around him.

Dijkhuizen should have shown positive intent against Wednesday, started with Woods and Canos and gone for the win from minute one. If I was Benham and had spent the best part of a million pounds on League One’s most exciting young player, I wouldn’t have been happy that my head coach wasn’t giving him a game.

I am sad for Dijkhuizen and I am angry at the club we all love so much, but I am also excited and pleased that we now have another chance to hopefully start the season afresh from this point on. Like most Bees fans, when I go to a game I want to see passion, commitment, heart and some semblance of a plan based on intelligent attacking football that primarily involves keeping the ball on the deck.

In the games I’ve seen against Ipswich, Reading and SHeffield Wednesday this has simply not been the case (sadly the only home game I missed was the only game we won). I appreciate that we have shown flashes of good play here and there, but here and there is not enough – especially not at this level. For that reason Marinus had to go and I am looking forward to an English (Irish) manager who will hopefully take the passion we all feel for the club, channel that to the players and begin to turn things around on the pitch. Even with all the injuries, we still have the makings of a good team. Let’s now have the confidence to show it.

He also commented again after the last home defeat, as follows:

Another great, if deeply depressing, post, Greville. Also very insightful comments by Mike and Rebel Bee. I wasn’t at the game and it shows how not actually witnessing it first hand can give you such a false impression. At nil-nil I thought it was looking okay, with possibly our first clean sheet of the season coming. But reading about what actually happened has only served to darken my mood even further.

The worst thing about all of this for me, are the words coming out of Carsley’s mouth. In the interview with Billy Reeves, he sounds flat, downbeat and pretty disinterested in the whole thing. In fact, he actually uses the word “detached” when asked about his emotions. He also says, “I wasn’t looking to be a manager” and “you just have to get on with it.”

What kind of response is that? If he was so reluctant to take the role, then why on earth did he accept when it was offered? What kind of example does that set for the players – to say nothing of the fans?

Let’s make no mistake, we are now in a relegation battle. We can probably expect to get battered on Saturday and should maybe write that one off right now, but come the next home game against Rotherham we need to be totally focused on the task in hand, because only a win will do.

The way I feel at the moment is confused, nervous and incredibly upset. Did Crown / Benham / Devlin / Ankersen / Giles have any idea of the way Carsley felt? You would surely have to say no, otherwise why give him the role in the first place? Did they see him as being so honest with the press? Again, you would surely have to say no. It makes us look amateur – to say nothing of the way our Championship rivals will surely seize on it to gain the initiative when they play us.

Will Carsley still be there in a month’s time? I honestly don’t think so. Forget all this “leaving at the end of the season / I don’t want to be a manager” nonsense. We need a passionate figurehead in charge who can galvanise the players and inspire the fans. Sorry Mr. Benham, but that person is not Lee Carsley.

What’s Neil Warnock up to these days?

Gary Hennell commented as follows:

I think the decision for this sacking was constructed far earlier than this week. How many of us would succeed in a new company where your equipment is broken (pitch), your best staff dispersed to your competitors and then replaced with untried temps who are learning on the job and then, to compound it all your ace sales team all end up on long term sick leave?
The manager’s fault? Hardly. I just wish Crown and Ankersen stood up and said “you know, we got this gamble wrong.” I would have way more faith and respect for that, as this is the path we have publically stated we want to follow (no harm in that) – who of us has never made a management mistake? But it was their mistake not the manager’s.

Too many foreign league so-called bargains, not enough Championship tried and tested players – a lesson learned concerning the right mix. As for Marinus, coming from Excelsior to the Championship was in my view a step too far, or maybe too early but he was also not given the right tools in place to succeed by Brentford.

Culture differences, game pace and media scrutiny make the Championship brutal and possesion is pointless if you do nothing with it.

Last weekend I listened to some clever nitwit on Sky annouce that the team with the highest level of possesion in the entire football league was Brentford – he then followed by adding “and lets look at their league position.” I did use a few unrepeatable words at the telly, which the wife overheard. The media wants us to fail at this soooooo badly, make no mistake about that.

I do still think we are in Warburton withdrawal mode (me included). I need to get over that. Be brave – stand up and say it – we gambled on our manager and came up short and we sold off too much talent before being certain of its replacement.

Don’t be so hell bent that every purchase or decision has to be totally radical because that is what the media expect of us now.

I think the Carsley decision makes much more sense in terms of his pedigree, international experience and internal club knowledge. It really is a massive chance for Mr. Carsley, who I think stands to receive more support than his predecessor did, which seems unfair on reflection.

I suppose what I really wish is that we don’t try to play bargain hunting with our managers like we do with our squad acquisitions and the Marinus appointment had that feel to it.

In the meantime I hope that Carsley can ramp up the tempo and the spirit for tonight’s game – I get the feeling Birmingham might smell blood and I hope we can get after them from the get go.

How badly does our team need a man manager right now?

His thoughts were equally strong after the match:

We need a determined leader/manager to drag their sorry backsides out of the sea of self pity and get stuck in and raise the game tempo. I travelled four hours last night to see Brentford play at such a pedestrian pace that you would have thought we were the away team trying to kill a game off. Honestly, what team in this division cannot defend when provided with over five minutes to set up their defence for a corner?

What I can’t understand is it was blindingly obvious last year that the Championship respects and fears pace in equal measure. The money we received for Odubajo and Gray confirms that. So when did we decide that seventy-five percent possession and zero penetration played at snail’s pace will return better results?

So the thought occurred to me, the statistical models indentified them as good enough – but do they play like they believe they are?

The brand of football being played right now is choking the flair and inventiveness out of the players and it is as much crushing as boring to watch, as you rightly pointed out.

Interestingly, by comparison did you know…..

I read that one of the first things that Warburton did when he arrived at Ibrox was post a big sign up in the dressing room….do you know what he had written on that sign?
SEND THEM HOME HAPPY in big capital letters above the dressing room door. Hmmm, can it really be that simple?

Some fans are saying don’t criticise or Matthew Benham may pull the plug, if he is truly “one of our own” this won’t happen, he’ll work his socks off to fix this and regain all of our trust and goodwill. If he does withdraw support then you’d have to ask what sort of a club would we have become anyway, and was the price of having such a benefactor worth paying?

He must have a hard and at times thankless task, but some communication and engagement now is not so much to ask for, surely?

It has been really tough going so far, the thrill of my next Brentford fix has been erased overnight. I am sad to admit that I will not be at Derby and need the international break to get over the last week. I’ll never give up on my team but it kills me to see others thinking of doing so.

John Hirdle also has questions to ask about our recruitment policy:

Matthew Benhams judgement must surely come under scrutiny. He had months to scour Europe for a replacement for Warburton and came up with a guy he has got rid of after eight games and then gives the job to someone who was under his nose all the time. I don’t know how much say Dijkhuizen had in transfers but surely the mass signings of unproven foreign players with no experience of English Championship level by Benham, Giles and Ankersen was a mistake. Coupled with the departures of several key players and our horrendous injury run it is no surprise that we have struggled.

After the debacle of the Reading home game, performances since have undoubtedly improved and despite rumours of training ground unrest I have seen nothing to suggest that the players haven’t been giving it their all for club and manager on the pitch.

The jury remains firmly out on the effect of the stats based system in my opinion. We remain totally ineffective and impotent on free kicks and corners despite expensively assembled specialist coaches employed in this field.

One also wonders how stats from the second division of a European League correlate with the level we are now playing at.

As always we will rally round and get behind the new manager who may well turn out to be an inspired choice, he will hopefully be helped by returning players soon.

Interesting, passionate and well thought through comments that make depressing reading at what is a pretty depressing time for us all.

Why Marinus Has Gone – 28/9/15

Today’s news that Brentford Head Coach Marinus Dijkhuizen and his assistant, Roy Hendriksen have both left Griffin Park frankly comes as little surprise. The official statements from the club and Chairman Cliff Crown are brief, carefully worded and they take pains not to use the word. Parted company is the bland and anodyne expression used to explain their departure but let’s make no bones about it – the two of them have been sacked.

Dijkhuizen lasted a mere one hundred and twenty days in his post. Appointed on the first of June he departed on the twenty-eighth of September having presided over a mere nine competitive matches. Whilst he was officially titled Head Coach, he was team manager in everything bar name and should therefore be compared against previous occupants of that position.

Let’s get the history out of the way first. In modern times the previous shortest managerial tenure at the club was Eddie May’s who lasted nineteen games in his three months in charge followed by Leroy Rosenior and Terry Butcher who was in charge for twenty-three games and Scott Fitzgerald who managed one more match.

Eddie May potentially presents an interesting parallel for those of us who are conspiracy theorists. An unknown appointed out of left field from Dundalk with indecent haste by David Webb in August 1997 at a time when the club was in total disarray with a squad that had been decimated by the sale of players and the arrival of unknown journeymen replacements, he quite understandably struggled to get results and when the repeated promises of funds to improve the team failed to materialise he was sacked along with his assistant Clive Walker in November 1997, after just four league wins had left the club embroiled in a relegation battle which they ultimately lost on the last day of a quite dreadful season.

May was perceived as Webb’s dupe, the fall guy for the previous manager who had taken over as Chief Executive with the prime intention of ensuring that funds were brought in so that the club was debt free before it was sold to Ron Noades the following year.

Are there any similarities when we come to consider the reasons and rationale for the change in management that took place today?

I have thought long and hard about matters and whilst the start we have made to the season has been horrible there have certainly been extenuating circumstances. Let’s get the hard facts out of the way:

  • Brentford have gained only eight points from their first eight Championship matches and find themselves in nineteenth place, only two points off the bottom of the league
  • We have conceded the first goal in every match bar one and have yet to keep a clean sheet
  • The Bees have won only two matches, both against teams just promoted from Division One
  • We have lost two of our first four home games, could quite easily have lost all four and have trailed at half time in every game
  • A weakened team lost by four clear goals to Second Division Oxford United in the Capital One Cup
  • Performances have been stuttering and inconsistent, we find it hard to start matches on the front foot and there is no settled pattern of play

That is the prosecution case but there is an equally strong case for the defence that more than explains away our less then impressive start to the season:

  • Let’s try and keep a sense of perspective and simply take stock and recognise just how far we have come in such a short space of time particularly given our lack of resources compared to the overwhelming majority of our Championship rivals
  • The enforced sale and departure of five leading players from last season’s squad in Andre Gray, Jonathan Douglas, Moses Odubajo, Alex Pritchard and Stuart Dallas which rendered Dijkhuizen’s preseason preparations almost meaningless
  • Last season’s team included five potential match winners and game changers in Jota, Alan Judge, Odubajo, Pritchard and Gray – a figure currently reduced to one
  • A relentless and seemingly ever-increasing long-term injury list that has rendered key players such as Jota, Andreas Bjelland, Max Colin, Philipp Hofmann, Lewis Macleod and Josh McEachran hors de combat
  • The consequent need to blood members of the Development Squad who will certainly all benefit from the experience but for them to compete in the Championship at this stage of their career is a tough ask
  • Being forced to name only six substitutes including two goalkeepers at the strongest team in the league in Middlesbrough
  • The need to bed in simultaneously nearly half a team of newcomers from around Europe who have no knowledge of English conditions and The Championship and are not being buttressed by more experienced players around them
  • PitchGate – a total embarrassment for the club which necessitated the re-turfing of Griffin Park and the cancellation of the Birmingham home game
  • The scandalous situation at Jersey Road where the main training pitches are still unusable

Whilst there have been some rumblings and murmurings from supporters spoiled by the constant stream of success over the past three seasons and used to the wonderful attacking flair of Mark Warburton’s playoff team last season, the overwhelming majority of Brentford supporters are extremely patient and fair minded and were prepared to give Marinus more time, particularly given the almost insuperable problems he faced that were totally out of his control.

That being said there were growing concerns about his commitment to an impotent and restrictive 4-3-3 formation that patently wasn’t working given the limited resources he had and required constant changes on the hoof when we were chasing games that were already slipping away from us. Lasse Vibe, a proven international striker was hamstrung from being forced to play out wide on the right wing where he has been an isolated figure, rather than more centrally where he and Marco Djuricin looked a highly potent threat when they were finally allowed to play closer together.

Konstantin Kerschbaumer was an ever present in the team despite seemingly overwhelming evidence that he was unable to cope with the physicality of The Championship and the presence of expensive new signing Ryan Woods on the bench who has been clamouring for a start.

I have spoken to many of the key protagonists over the past few weeks and I have found absolutely no evidence that Marinus was in any way shape or form, overruled, instructed, hamstrung, restricted or second guessed in any of his key responsibilities in terms of picking the team, training and preparing them for action and most crucially in terms of game management, tactics and substitutions. He was given an entirely free hand and the freedom to act as he best saw fit. So any comparisons to Eddie May are totally inaccurate and invidious. Marinus was no puppet and was allowed to be his own man.

He had bought into the Brentford project and was happy with the new management structure. He was consulted on all player moves both in and out and whilst he would have liked some additional loan signings to cover for the current injury crisis, Marinus was content with the quality and calibre of the new signings.

So why then did he leave if he was not being made the scapegoat for a series of poor results that were to a large degree out of his control? Now this is where I have to resort to speculation and informed guesswork.

Perhaps the alarm bells were beginning to ring with the powers that be because of some of the onfield tactical and selection problems that I have previously mentioned earlier in this article as well as exploring in depth yesterday.

He also suffered in comparison with his predecessor. Mark Warburton was certainly a hard act to follow and his successor needed to get off to a flying start, something that was denied Marinus.

Warburton was also a workaholic control freak, in the nicest sense of the words. He arrived early at the training ground and left extremely late. Training routines were meticulously planned and organised well in advance and the players knew exactly where they stood and how they were going to spend their days.

It would appear that Marinus and Roy Hendriksen did not run such a tight ship in terms of either time keeping and preparation and a far more laissez faire atmosphere prevailed. This apparently did not go down well with either players or management.

I believe that today’s action has been taken by Matthew Benham on the recommendation of the Co-Directors of Football in order to nip matters in the bud before they can be allowed to get out of hand and beyond control.

It cannot be denied that this is an enormous blow to the credibility of the new regime at the club and I am sure that the media will not be slow to point fingers and make fun at our expense. Such are the vicissitudes of life and we will just have to cope with this opprobrium as best we can.

Brentford pride themselves on doing things differently to other clubs, thinking out of the box and acting far smarter than their rivals.  An enormous amount of due diligence was done before Marinus was hired and he interviewed exceptionally well and seemed to tick all the boxes. However the fact remains that actions speak louder than words and apparently he has not convinced the powers that be since he arrived and drastic action has been taken sooner rather than later to avert the slump before too much damage is done.

It could reasonably be argued that this is an extremely brave move rather than a panicked knee jerk reaction and this could even be a turning point for us in what is developing into a tough season and one where consolidation is perhaps the best we can hope for rather than pushing on from last season’s massive and incredible achievements. As they say – one step backwards – two steps forward!

Lee Carsley is an excellent choice to take over the mantle as Head Coach. Supported by Paul Williams he is a known entity who has already gained the unconditional respect of the entire squad. He is an experienced and proven international footballer who can put his caps on the table and he has previous managerial experience at Coventry City. Most importantly he has a deep working knowledge of The Championship and he will be keen to put one over one of his old clubs, Birmingham City, at Griffin Park tomorrow night.

So on the surface this has not been a good day for the club, but when you drill down deeper and think matters through, then perhaps it has been a brave and correct decision to relieve Marinus and Roy of their jobs.

All will surely be revealed and become apparent over the coming weeks and months.

We Know He Is Good! – 31/7/15

It certainly came as no surprise to me and every other Brentford supporter to learn from our new friends up at Glasgow Rangers that the partnership of Mark Warburton and David Weir has already made a massive impression in the first few weeks of their reign and that they have started to both revitalise and restore pride to what was a faltering club. The real surprise would have been if Rangers fans felt anything other than delight and renewed confidence at their appointment and how they have begun to tackle the massive task that awaits them.

It is surely the ideal appointment given that Weir is steeped in the history and tradition of the club, and, it must also be said, the recent chaos that has ensued there, and Warburton is simply an excellent all round manager, or as I have described him before a Renaissance Man who is a wonderful motivator, communicator and man manager as well as an excellent and positive coach who also has an excellent eye for unearthing and then placing his faith in young, vibrant talent.

If they are given the necessary support then I really cannot see them failing in their task and I look forward to Rangers returning in triumph to the top flight of Scottish football at the end of the season.

Several other Brentford fans shared my pleasure in hearing yesterday’s positive update. Patrick Sutton commented succinctly:

Well that’s a mighty fine assessment of Mark’s start at Rangers and I wish him all the best. It would be fantastic if he succeeds north of the border as well as he did in the south, if only to prove he is no fly by night merchant but indeed a good young manager who is not only able to create a positive attitude but to also get results.

Alan Bird looked at his broader management skills:

The assessment of the excellent start that Mark Warburton seems to have made at Rangers suggests to me that if he ever left football he’d make an excellent CEO somewhere.

He seems to have the knack of making people happy in their roles and positions and they seem to want to work for him and do a good job. I really liked  and was impressed that he asked the players to write their own Code of Conduct………any future issues and he can say ‘They’re your own rules not mine’.

I wonder if that is something that he wishes he’d tried to do at Brentford.

RebelBee was also impressed:

Thank you for reaching out to the Rangers supporter who has written an excellent piece on Mark Warburton’s early days in the hot seat up there. I watched the highlights of their six-two win at Hibs and it was vintage Warburton – you get two goals we’ll just keep coming at you and get six, even the odd not so good bit had his DNA all over it. He will do brilliantly up there, and given time and support will totally revive Rangers – I’m sure of it.

Also thank you for avoiding the temptation felt by some Bees fans, to move on so quickly from the Warbs era that his incredible achievement is now overlooked or at worst devalued. This type of piece doesn’t in any way undermine the new team at the helm, but serves to remind us of the talent and ongoing progress of our finest post war manager.

Matthew Benham and Mark Warburton working in partnership provided my best memories as a lifelong supporter of our great club, I will never forget Warbs and his legacy –  and it was also nice to see the interesting comments from Alan Bird who would know more than most.

Matthew Benham continues to back the club to an incredible level, and we have a new coach in Marinus who I’m warming to day by day. Who knows where we’ll end up, maybe the best is ahead, but for now I’ll look back on the Benham/Warburton period at Brentford as the best ever.

Good luck to the Gers too.

Former Brentford striker Richard Poole also had some astute comments to make:

Well Greville your recent words about Warburton going far away and not coming back to haunt us ring true with me! I have a strong feeling that we have not heard the last of somebody who I am quite certain will be an excellent manager at whatever club he works at. What he achieved in so short a period at Brentford clearly reminds me of what Frank Blunstone started to do in my time at the club, but as we all know he was not given the time even with the pitifully small resources he had to play with.

I await fresh news and updates from Glasgow with relish and anticipation. Mark Warburton is a young manager in terms of his experience in the position and he is still learning and developing new skills. He appears to be one of those rare multitalented individuals who can turn his hand and use his common sense to adapt to most new situations and opportunities.

I am glad that the Brentford blueprint and framework seems to be working for him there too and like my fellow Brentford fans I can see nothing less than continued success for him wherever he goes.

Warburton Already Winning Over The Doubters – 30/7/15

I have been talking recently to some Rangers fans who were seeking some background information regarding their new manager, Mark Warburton. I was happy to provide them with an article which set out his managerial style and approach at Brentford last season which was very much one of positive reinforcement and encouragement and asked them in return to let us know how Mark and David Weir were settling into their new posts in Glasgow.

Jordan Campbell of The Rangers Report blog has kindly obliged and provided a fascinating update which summarises, as if we ever doubted it, just what an impact Mark has already made on the supporters of his new club. Here is Jordan had to say:

It has been just forty-one days since Mark Warburton was appointed as the fourteenth permanent manager of Rangers Football Club, and just thirty since the heavily depleted squad he inherited returned to the training ground in Auchenhowie for the start of pre-season. But last Saturday, his new-look side put on a rampant second-half performance which could have fooled you into thinking that he had been implementing his footballing philosophy for a whole lot longer.

Although we are very much in the infancy of his tenure, the last thirty minutes’ showing must have proved to the doubters that his Ibrox transformation is well and truly underway.
It is far too premature to judge whether he will be a success in the long run (challenging Celtic within two years and then progressing on the European front – not much to ask for) but if I were to grade his report card so far there would be no other option than to give him top marks; he is yet to put a foot wrong.

Since our financial collapse in 2012 we have had to endure three and a half years of torture with the chronic football on the park providing little escape from the drama in the boardroom. However, it seemed like last Saturday finally heralded the start of a new chapter of success as the supporters witnessed the most entertaining ninety minutes of football served up in three seasons.

I was a huge admirer of Warburton’s work while he was at Brentford and even earmarked him as a potential candidate for the managerial position as early on as March. His style of play and the bond he had established with the fans, combined with Weir’s knowledge of the club made it the perfect partnership in my opinion. But even with high expectations of what he and Davie were capable of, I cannot help but be impressed with how they are managing every aspect of the club whether that be the recruitment, the youth structure or the media.

They were exactly what was needed in our situation: strong figures who wouldn’t be fazed by the spotlight or by the fact that they had to imprint their footballing vision from virtually a blank canvas.

It has to be put into perspective just how mammoth the task they faced was – and still is. Having to rebuild every department of the club and ensure that we win promotion, all the while playing a brand of football which will pack out Ibrox is no mean feat when you have to face forty-odd thousand expectant supporters every second week. And when I said he had to rebuild every department I really meant it.

When he took charge, the club had just released eleven out of contract players who were part of the side that lost heavily to Motherwell in that humiliating playoff final. That left him with a nineteen-man squad consisting of mainly academy graduates and existing players who had woefully under performed. There was no scouting system in place whatsoever which meant the board had to trust in his extensive knowledge of the market down south in the hope that he could identify value for money himself.

The club had no footballing identity either. Ally McCoist’s long ball tactics and refusal to promote youth players had consigned our modern training facility to a state of redundancy as the conveyor belt of talent lay dormant with no direction or pathway into the first-team.

Warburton has gone about addressing every one of these points in an efficient and diligent manner which is what the supporters have come to expect from him in the short space of time he has been here.

Eight players have since come through the door but there have been no panic buys. Some managers may have come in and decided that there had to be an entire clear-out but Warburton took the sensible option of assessing the squad for himself before he made wholesale changes. Goalkeeper Wes Foderingham, defenders Danny Wilson, Rob Kiernan and James Tavernier, midfielders Andy Halliday, Jordan Thompson and Jason Holt along with striker Martyn Waghorn have all been brought in while John Eustace trains with the squad hoping to secure a deal.

All of these players have had up-and-down periods so far in their short careers with most of their CV’s littered with loan moves around the country. Six of them were plying their trade in League One last season which is why some fans were sceptical of Warburton’s recruitment policy, but the vast majority of them showed up really well on their debut which has put to bed some of the initial worries.

But he has been unequivocal in his desire to bring in players who still have years ahead of them to develop. Rangers are no longer in the position where they can spend millions on established internationals, bringing in young, British talent with sell-on value is the only viable option going forward. At a total cost of around seven hundred thousand pounds, the six players he has signed look as if they will go on to represent great value for the club.

Whereas McCoist repeatedly spoke of the need to add ‘experience’, Warburton stresses the need for any signings to ‘add value’ and reiterates the need to keep the core of the squad ‘young and hungry’. This fresh outlook has been exactly what the fans have been crying out for and it was evident on Saturday as the average age of the starting eleven had been reduced to twenty-four compared to twenty-nine in the reverse fixture last year.

He has taken a holistic approach to overhauling the youth department along with the recently appointed Head of Youth Development, Craig Mulholland. Every age group will now play with the exact same system (4-3-3) making the transition for players progressing through the ranks smoother and allowing them to seamlessly slot into the first-team when the time comes.

He has made it abundantly clearly that he has no qualms about putting youngsters in if they are good enough and it seems to have acted as a source of motivation for the Under 20s as they have been flying in pre-season, beating senior outfits such as Tynecastle and Arbroath by comfortable margins.

Warburton’s handling of the media has been superb so far, but the increased spotlight was never likely to trouble a man who turned over hundreds of millions of pounds per day as a city trader was it? However, the animosity shown towards Rangers from the majority of Scottish football is at an all-time high and the reaction to the club’s pursuit of Hibs midfielder Scott Allan typified the sort of response the club have become accustomed to in recent years. Rangers had two bids turned down for Allan last Thursday and Friday which saw a BBC journalist question Warburton over the ‘morality’ of bidding for a player that would be facing his side just a day later – yes, that’s right, how immoral of him to bid for a player during the transfer window!

Don’t get me wrong, the timing of the bids was clearly tactical as Allan informed Hibs that he wanted to join less than twenty-four hours before the match which prompted manager Alan Stubbs to drop him to the bench. But his handling of the situation has been exemplary as he has remained calm and dignified, refusing to speak about another club’s player when he could have easily taken exception to those questioning the ethics of himself and the club. His open and candid media persona presents a great image of the club.

It is the product on the park that is the main focus though and is ultimately what he will be judged upon. It will inevitably take time for his new style of play to bed in and for the newly assembled squad to gel, but in his first two games there have been clear signs that his ideas are speedily getting across to the players.

Being brave on the ball and playing out from the back are two non-negotiables of his philosophy which incorporates a high-energy approach to the game revolving around ‘dominating the ball’ – a phrase we have become familiar with. The full-backs are pushed on very high and the whole team presses as a unit, which, while it can leave us exposed at the back makes for an open game.

The most refreshing aspect of the game was that when we went two goals up he didn’t allow us to drop deeper and deeper and rest on our laurels, instead he brought on Kenny Miller and Dean Shiels who helped further increase the winning margin. I can envisage there being a number of high-scoring games this year where it may be a case of ‘if you score four, we’ll score five’ or if Saturday is anything to go by, ‘if you score two we’ll score six’!

It seems that he has created a real togetherness within the squad and the players have already struck up an affinity with the fans which had been sorely lacking. This was shown as he ordered each and every one of the squad to march over to the travelling supporters to thank them for their support.

It’s the little things that make a huge difference to the overall feel of the club. On day one he held a team meeting where he outlined what was expected of them. Honesty and respect were the traits that seem to have ben stressed as the key principles on which the season will be based upon. He has even given the players the task of producing their own code of conduct which ties in with his preference to give them more responsibility as he is a firm believer that they should give their opinion in tactical meetings.

The quality of the training sessions seem to be the biggest difference that the players have noted. Triple sessions have been a regular feature and all the endurance training has been with a ball compared to the aimless running which they have been used to under Head of Sports Science Jim Henry. He, along with first-team coach Gordon Durie have subsequently left the club as Warburton and Weir say they prefer to do all of the coaching themselves.

Even Warburton’s demeanour on the touchline gives off a more positive vibe. In keeping with tradition he was suited and booted and was animated from the first whistle to the last, barking out instructions. Not satisfied with the four goal margin of victory, he lamented his side’s poor start to the game in his post-match interviews and demanded that they meet the high expectations they have set themselves.

He also showed what a gentleman he is when he made the effort to travel to Ibrox to meet the club’s oldest season ticket holder on his one hundredth birthday to present him with his new season ticket on the pitch.

With Warburton and Weir at the helm, it feels like the club are in safe hands. They have a clear direction in which they are heading in and as the weeks and months roll on I can only see the team going from strength to strength as the players familiarise with themselves with the new set-up. The feel-good factor surrounding the club has given birth to a wave of optimism which was can only be compared to when Dick Advocaat arrived in 1998 and even has some fans talking about potentially winning a domestic trophy which seemed a long way off just a couple of months ago.

In everything he has done so far, he has shown that he possesses the managerial nous and the level of class required to be a Rangers manager. His professionalism and the way he went about things is clearly what endeared him to the Brentford support and it seems that the fans up here have taken to him too as the ‘magic hat’ song has proved a big hit with him.

Good luck to the Bees this season and I’m sure all Rangers fans will be keeping a close eye on how you get on with your new statistical approach to the game. Oh, and if it doesn’t work out with Lewis MacLeod, feel free to send him back up the road! 

Thank you Jordan for this wonderful incisive article and I am sure that all Brentford fans will be delighted to hear that Mark has settled down so quickly in his new home and it sounds as if he is establishing firm foundations at Rangers and replicating many of the systems and philosophies that he implemented at Brentford.

We all wish him and Rangers every success over the coming months and most importantly of all, we would really welcome your suggestions regarding how on earth we can get Lewis MacLeod back onto a football pitch at some time soon?

The Rangers Report can be found at

Warburton’s Words – 21/4/15

I do so enjoy reading Manager Mark Warburton’s regular article in the Bees Review match day programme. They are invariably measured, thoughtful, pithy and to the point, just like the man himself and are quite evidently self-penned and not the work of some anonymous hack or ghost in the media department. He takes the time and trouble to open the dressing room door ajar and allow supporters to sneak inside the secretive, arcane and cloistered world of professional football, and he generally provides a deep and personal insight into some fascinating aspect of the club, playing squad or, indeed, the team behind the team.

I particularly like the courteous way he welcomes the opposition manager by name and remarks how much he is looking forward to sharing a drink with him after the game. For me, at least, his words conjure up vivid images of a convivial gathering with the two of them sitting down at a table covered with a spotless white starched tablecloth, napkins around their neck, with David Weir serving a selection of carefully sliced triangular cucumber sandwiches and cutting up the Battenberg, and Kevin O’Connor pouring cups of tea all around. I am sure that the reality is somewhat different and far more akin to the Liverpool Boot Room with the two managers drinking a can of beer together and quietly reflecting on their respective fortunes in the hard fought game recently finished. Just in passing I must try and unearth my dog-eared copy of the Rotherham programme from January 10th and see if Warburton extended the same hospitality to Steve Evans as not only would he undoubtedly hog all the food on offer but also Evans in his customary full-on post-match hectoring and hyperbolic rant mode would surely turn out to be a most unwelcome, loudmouthed and unsavoury guest!

I read Mark’s article in Saturday’s programme with particular interest as he took the belated opportunity to look back three months in time and comment in great detail about his perspective on what happened, or perhaps more specifically what didn’t, in the January transfer window. Firstly let’s review the facts. We managed to bring in four players and, perhaps just as crucially, we lost nobody from our squad. We signed a promising young midfielder, Josh Laurent, from QPR, spent heavily on one of Scotland’s top prospects in Rangers starlet Lewis Macleod, bought highly rated left-sided defender Jack O’Connell from Blackburn Rovers for a reported quarter of a million pounds and signed England Under-20 international striker Chris Long on loan from Everton.

Our three permanent signings share similar characteristics in being young, inexperienced and highly talented and they all appear to have the potential to develop into exceptionally valuable long-term assets for the club. Unfortunately what is far more pertinent at the present time is that between them none of them have contributed in the slightest for us yet at first team level or have even played one minute’s football in the Championship. We did have high hopes and expectations for Macleod but he arrived as damaged goods and has been a permanent sick note ever since, managing a grand total of forty-five eminently forgettable minutes for the Development Squad a few weeks back. He has now been put back into cold storage for next season when we can but hope that he manages to get himself fully fit and earns a place in our revamped midfield.

O’Connnell was sent straight back on loan to Rochdale where he really impressed in a team challenging for the Division One playoffs and justifiably earned a recall to his parent club. Despite our continued problems and adventures in central defence he has yet to be given his opportunity, although he has looked the part sitting on the bench! Next season perhaps? Laurent has no Football League pedigree but is an educated gamble for the future. Long is also short on experience but has impressed with his enthusiasm and eye for goal when given an opportunity, however he has been plagued with injuries and illness and has only made ten appearances including a mere two starts. Four goals is a more than decent return, but the overall feeling about our January signings is one of frustration and disappointment at their overall lack of contribution. Frankly they looked more like signings for January 2016 rather than this year and have done little or nothing to either strengthen or assist us in our promotion push.

One possible inference from the lack of immediate impact of our new arrivals in January is that they really were intended for the future rather than the present and that the management were more than content with what they already had in terms of the strength, make-up and chemistry of the squad and were simply looking to tinker rather than make radical improvements.

Warburton’s explanation is totally different in that he claims that key players were targeted both at home and abroad who would have added quality and depth to the squad, but for a variety of reasons every deal fell through. He mentioned player or agent financial demands that did not represent good value for Brentford or the requirement that potential loanees had to be automatic starters. Warburton categorically denied turning down any high quality players who were within our grasp and who would also have improved us.

Certainly it was rumoured at the time that funds were available and that strenuous efforts were being made to sign players of the calibre of giant Colombian central defender Bernardo from Sporting Gijon and top Austrian striker Marco Djuricin from Sturm Graz. Despite our apparent efforts, Bernardo remained at his present club and Djuricin allegedly snubbed us in favour of a move to Red Bull Saltzburg where he gone on to win a full international cap for Austria. Whilst it is impossible to be categoric, given their quality, they or their ilk, would probably have made a massive difference to our fortunes had they arrived at Griffin Park and settled down to life in London.

“Hindsight is always twenty-twenty” as Billy Wilder so memorably stated and it is very easy to look back from our position today, outside the Playoff positions and anticipating the increasing possibility of a massive missed opportunity, and assert that we made a massive error in not strengthening in January, but if we are to take Warburton’s words at face value, which of course I do, then it wasn’t for the want of trying.

What really surprised me was the timing of his remarks and that Warburton chose to raise this subject now, months after the event, when the season is approaching its climax, rather than wait until the postmortem after the season ends next month. Conspiracy theorists have been hard at work with their convoluted explanations for why we failed to bring home the bacon in January so perhaps Warburton simply wished to rebut them, but it is difficult to reconcile oneself to the sight of Harlee Dean acting as our sole emergency striker in a “must-win” game on Saturday after the withdrawal of Andre Gray. A promotion chasing team should not have allowed itself to be reduced to such straits at this crucial stage of the season.

I have invariably found Mark Warburton to be open and honest in words and deeds alike, and this article is no exception, but the fact remains that our promotion rivals succeeded in January where we failed and the cost is likely to be high.